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Utah Royals FC’s first game of fall series unveiled

Portland Thorns FC defender Meghan Klingenberg (25) is tripped by Utah Royals FC midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta (9) during the first half of a National Womens Soccer League game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019.
Portland Thorns FC defender Meghan Klingenberg (25) is tripped by Utah Royals FC midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta (9) during the first half of a National Womens Soccer League game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019.
Colter Peterson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Last week, the National Women’s Soccer League announced it will be continuing the 2020 season with a fall series in home markets, and on Tuesday, the first of four games that Utah Royals FC will play was announced.

URFC will first play Portland Thorns FC on Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. MDT in Portland, the league announced. In what will be a rather fragmented schedule, with 18 league games over seven weeks, URFC will be the last of the NWSL’s nine teams to return to play.

Only the first three weeks of the schedule was unveiled Tuesday, with the league saying the rest would be released within the next week. Play will open this Saturday when the D.C.-based Washington Spirit host Sky Blue FC.

No other games will be played until the next weekend, when three will take place (NC Courage vs. the Houston Dash, Washington vs. the Chicago Red Stars and Portland vs. Washington-based OL Reign).

Before URFC plays, the Courage will face the Orlando Pride on Sept. 19 and the Red Stars will face Sky Blue earlier in the day Sept. 20.

To minimize travel, squads have been placed in three-team pods, and they’ll play the other two sides in their pod twice each during the fall series, once at home and once on the road. URFC is in the West pod with Portland and OL Reign.

Chicago, Sky Blue and Washington comprise the Northeast pod and North Carolina, Orlando and Houston the South pod.

After the league became the first in the United States to return to play in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic when it set up a bubble for a month in Utah earlier this summer, the league’s protocols for dealing with positive coronavirus tests have been updated to reflect the realities of traveling.

Of note, team facilities will be closed immediately if a player or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. If a person has had direct or prolonged exposure to someone who tests positive, that person cannot return to training for at least seven days and must have two negative tests prior to returning to training.